Increasing Number of Teens Leaving High School to Support Families

Teens Leaving High School to Work

Some people may assume that teens drop out of high school because they have behavioral problems, a lack of parental guidance or poor grades, but an increasing number of high school students are leaving school so they can work and help contribute to family finances.

Urban Institute, a Washington DC-based social and economic research organization, found that among a sample of 563,000 dropouts, nearly a third had left school so they could work. Many of these students come from families whose earnings are just below or just above the federal poverty level, and many of the parents in these households lack high school diplomas.

These young workers don’t earn enough to live on their own, but their earnings may account for 50 percent or more of the total household income.

Teens who choose to work instead of finish high school may be jeopardizing their own opportunities, because without a high school education, it’s more difficult to find jobs that pay well.

A senior researcher at Urban Institute told The Washington Post that preventing students from dropping out due to economic reasons requires policymakers to identify ways to help families as a whole. For example, if more free job training and job placement programs were available, parents who lack high school diplomas might be able to find better employment opportunities.

Some options exist that could help these dropout teens. Online high schools allow students to take classes when it’s convenient for them, and if they enroll full-time, classes are free.

Online schools also work for adults who previously dropped out of high school but now have time to finish their education. And for a fee, teens that need only a few classes to graduate can complete those requirements online.

These days, students who drop out of school aren’t relegated to taking classes on nights and weekends, and if they’re adults, they don’t have to worry about feeling out-of-place in GED classes that are full of people who are much younger than they are.

Online learning could give teen dropouts an opportunity to finish their schooling and allow them to work and contribute to the household.